Blind Maryam from Fassayil

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Nurit Popper and Daphne Banai (report)

Blind Maryam from Fassayil

After three years in which blind Maryam from Fasail received eye injections from a private ophthalmologist to save her eye sight, we decided to cease treatment by the private doctor and continue at the new eye hospital Hugo Chavez at Turmus Ayya. The reason for this is the difficulty in obtaining continued financing. So far the successful treatment has given Maryam back her eyesight and confidence, and accordingly she began to function again at home.

We had a hard time setting Maryam an appointment at the outpatient clinic of the Turmus Ayya Hospital for it is not yet registered on the internet. In April she had an appointment set by phone for the end of the month – April 26, 2023. We came to get her from her Fasail home to the hospital. Unfortunately, we found out that no appointment was written down. We waited with her for 4 hours, until a doctor (who was late to arrive due to the closed checkpoint exiting Nablus) would examine her superficially and set her a more serious examination appointment for June 26. Two days earlier, a horrific pogrom took place in Turmus Ayya, carried out by colonists who burnt houses and vehicles and fired live ammunition at villagers (see MW report of July 23). Following these events, Maryam asked to postpone her examination. We drove there in order to document the serious damages but could not make a new appointment because the hospital was closed due to the Muslim holiday beginning the next day. A week later we went there especially to set an appointment for Maryam on August 7, 2023.

In the meantime, her condition worsened considerably. She called us anxiously and said her vision had worsened to the point of total blindness in the right eye and weakness in the left eye. Here finances no longer played a role and we urgently contacted the private eye doctor in Jericho, who told us to come on Tuesday afternoon, before she begins to receive patients.

Before driving out, we bought a lot of healthy foodstuffs (vegetables and legumes) for in spite of her severe diabetes which causes blindness, Maryam is unable to provide proper low-carbohydrate nutrition to herself and her poor family. The entire family, incidentally, suffers from diabetes. We also shopped for her young neighbor who asked us to do so since she too is ill and cannot feed her children.

Because of the checkpoints at the entrance to Jericho we decided not to enter the city in my Israeli car. We pre-ordered a taxi that took us from Al Auja to Jericho, and after the treatment we called the driver who despite being busy, immediately provided us with another driver.

Curious looks met us at the clinic – what are two Jewish women doing with a Bedouin woman? But everyone smiled and greeted us warmly. Apparently, Maryam’s blindness resulted from a hemorrhage in retina of her right eye. The doctor injected both eyes with the usual medication, and as always explained that she must stick to a low-carbohydrate diet. She also asked that Maryam’s usual doctor change her insulin, for the present type is not really working.

It was a very hot day. In Jericho the thermometer stood at 48 degrees centigrade. I cannot understand how people live in such heat. My own eyes and skin felt they were burning! The old woman who tried to help herself walk by leaning on the metal banister yelled as her hand sustained a burn.

After we got Maryam home. we went to see her young neighbor. She too suffers from other diseases and trouble beside her dire financial situation and her diabetes. Both her air-conditioner and ventilator are not in working condition. We promised to buy her a new ventilator. She showed us all the medication she takes – a bag filled with packages, most of them empty. I feel that the doctors there stuff their patients with medication because they have neither the conditions nor the time to really see what is wrong. Although we decided ahead of time not to give her money, we could not be indifferent to the young woman’s suffering and gave her some to buy at least the most vital medication. Her distress is no less than heart-rending.